The final WWE SmackDown episode of the year was a recap show featuring some of the best matches of 2023 as well as comments from some of the biggest names on the blue brand.
It is the second WWE show this week that they are calling the “Absolute Best of 2023.” I recapped Raw from Monday showing some of the great matches associated with that brand and now it is Smackdown’s turn.
Since I’ve reviewed all of the matches that will air on this show, I’m going to paste in my review from when the match happened. They aren’t showing the full matches, but you’ll be able to read my full review. I’m also going to summarize the rest of the show. There will be no Three Stars or final score rating for this review.
Before I begin, please check out my 2023 WWE Johnny Awards column that was over 10,000 words long covering mostly the best and some of the worst of WWE this year. I had a blast doing it. Thank you for all the feedback on it. That means so much to me. Also, I wanted to say Happy New Year to you and your loved ones. Let’s get to it.
There was a video featuring LA Knight talking about the absolute best of Smackdown in 2023. The Miz did this on Raw, so Knight talked about how everybody wants to be on the blue brand. That led to clips of John Cena, Randy Orton, CM Punk (even though he chose Raw) and The Rock just to name a few. They showed clips of great moments, title changes and more.
The show was hosted by Raw backstage interviewer Jackie Redmond and Smackdown announcer Corey Graves in WWE’s Headquarters.
John Cena’s return was mentioned, which led to the issues that Cena had with The Bloodline. That led to match highlights.
Let’s go back to WWE Crown Jewel on November 4th (my birthday) for this match.
Solo Sikoa vs. John Cena
There were loud chants for Cena to start the match. Cole noted that Cena doesn’t believe he’s the greatest of all time, but Cole believes it. Cena got a waistlock takedown followed by the stomp on Solo’s right arm. Cena delivered multiple shoulder tackles to knock Solo down. Solo wrenched on Solo’s right arm and hand. Cena slammed Solo’s right hand/thumb onto the steel steps. Cena slammed Solo’s right hand into the top of the steps. Solo hit Cena with a headbutt to knock him down. Cena tried to fight back, but Solo hit a spin kick. Solo splashed Cena on the ribs. Cena ducked a Samoan Spike, Cena tried a lift and Solo hit a superkick to knock Cena down. Solo hit a running hip attack on Cena against the turnbuckle. Cena avoided the Spike, Cena took Solo down and Cena applied a Crossface submission. Solo got out of that and hit a clothesline. Solo set up Cena upside down against the turnbuckle leading to Solo hitting a running headbutt for two. Solo hit a belly-to-belly suplex on Cena for a two count. The referee Jessika Carr held up five fingers to the guys at ringside, so that’s probably about the time. Solo hit a running hip attack against the turnbuckle. Solo went for the Samoan Spike, Cena avoided it and Cena hit his running shoulder tackles. Cena hit a spinning suplex followed by the Five Knuckle Shuffle fist drop. Cena went for the Attitude Adjustment, but Solo got out of that and Solo hit a Samoan Drop for two. Solo hit another running hip attack on Cena against the turnbuckle. Cena pulled on Solo’s arm against the top rope. Cena jumped off the top with a cross body block for two.
Cena lifted Solo on his shoulders, Solo broke free and hit a superkick. Solo went for a move, but Cena got out of it and Cena hit a Chokeslam. I’ve literally reviewed hundreds of Cena matches and never seen him do that one. Solo with a headbutt, Cena came back with punches and Cena tried another AA, but Solo got out of it and Solo hit a Spinning Solo for two. Solo went for the Samoan Spike again, Cena blocked it by catching the hand and Cena trapped Solo in the STF submission. Solo got to the bottom rope to break the hold. Cena was back up, Cena charged and Solo hit the Samoan Spike…but Solo was too hurt on the right arm to make a cover. Cena was grabbing his throat to sell it. Solo hit another Samoan Spike. Solo didn’t go for a cover. Cena was back up as Solo hit a third Samoan Spike. Cena was down on the mat talking to Solo. Cena got back up, the fans chanted for Cena and Solo hit another Samoan Spike. Solo delivered another seven Samoan Spikes to Cena’s throat for the pinfall win at 16:10.
Winner by pinfall: Solo Sikoa
Analysis: *** A dominant win to put over Solo Sikoa in a big way. Give Cena a lot of credit for doing the right thing to put over the younger, current star who is on the rise. This is something that Solo can brag about (with Paul Heyman) for years to come. Cena kept on trying for the Attitude Adjustment, but he couldn’t do it. Having Solo win the way he did was the right move. I liked it a lot because it will mean a lot for Solo.
(This was all about putting over Solo Sikoa in a big way by having him decimate John Cena in a way that’s not very common for a guy of Cena’s stature. Since it was Cena’s last match due to the actor’s strike ending, we don’t know when he’s coming back. That’s why it was a smart move to have Solo win dominantly.)
There was a video featuring John Cena talking into a cell phone. Here’s what Cena said:
“WWE Universe, John Cena here, all dressed up to celebrate a wonderful group of people. A toast to the WWE Universe for making my 2023. As you know, I was able to return to SmackDown in the fall, and the reception and the respect, I will never forget. I do not know how much time in the WWE I have left, but I do know in recent times when I’ve been able to return home, you have always welcomed me as one of your own.”
“I am forever indebted to your generosity, your empathy, your respect, and your excitement. I look forward to the next time we can get together, but I wanted to take a moment to truly say thank you for making this a wonderful year for me and for my family. To the WWE Universe. Until the next round. Cheers.”
Analysis: That was nice of John Cena to deliver a message like that. You can tell from his appearances that he was genuinely touched by the crowd reactions and he should be because the fans were amazing. It’s a different crowd than the ones that were booing him in the mid-to-late 2000s. I think we might see him in a match at the next WrestleMania 40 in April, but if not then that’s okay too.
Bobby Lashley and The Street Profits were backstage for a promo. Lashley spoke about how they want more in 2024. Montez Ford and Angelo Dawkins talked about how they were going to give out a beatdown to Angel & Humberto. They talked about getting all the gold and it will be all good. Lashley said it would be all mighty.
Analysis: I want to see that group winning some titles in 2024 for sure. The group also needs a name.
A recap was shown of the Royal Rumble when Roman Reigns and The Bloodline beat up Kevin Owens. That’s when the big moment happened as Sami Zayn hit Reigns with a steel chair. Sami took a beating, but it was a great moment for him.
That leads into the next match from WrestleMania 39 Saturday when Sami Zayn & Kevin beat The Usos in the main event to become Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions. This was my choice for WWE Match of the Year in my Johnny Awards column.
Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships: The Usos – Jimmy & Jey Uso vs. Kevin Owens & Sami Zayn
This is for the Raw & Smackdown Tag Team Title held by The Usos. The Usos have been Smackdown Tag Team Champions for 622 days.
The Usos were dressed in all white wearing “We The Ones” tank tops as well. Jimmy was going to start, but then Jey decided to start against Sami instead. Jey knocked down Zayn with a shoulder tackle. Zayn hit a Thesz Press followed by punches to the head. Jimmy made a tag, pulled down the ropes and Zayn went over the top to the floor. Jimmy decked Zayn with a clothesline on the floor. Jimmy sent Zayn into the ring post. Jey tagged in with a suicide dive with a forearm that sent Zayn into the barricade. Jey suplexed Zayn on the floor. Jey worked over Zayn with forearms while Jimmy hit a boot to the face. The champions continued to work over Zayn until Zayn broke free and sent both Usos to the floor. Owens tagged in with a somersault off the top on both guys on the floor. Owens hit a Frog Splash on Jimmy from the apron to the floor. Owens went up top and hit a Frog Splash on Jey in the ring for a two count. Jey came back with a lifting neckbreaker for a two count. Owens was fighting out of the champions corner, he knocked Owens down and went for a Swanton Bomb, but Jey got the knees up. Jimmy had made a blind tag and Jimmy hit an Uso Splash off the top on Owens for two. Jimmy went for the hip attack, Owens moved out of the ring, Owens hit two superkicks and a cannonball attack in the corner. Owens went up top, Jey grabbed Owens and Zayn hit a brainbuster on Jey on the apron. Owens with a Swanton Bomb off the top on Jimmy for two. Zayn got the tag, he held one finger in the air like The Usos and Zayn hit an Uso Splash for a two count. The fans did “Ole Ole Ole” chants for Zayn with Cole mentioning that El Generico would be proud. Jimmy broke free of Zayn, then Jimmy superkicked Owens and Jey got the tag as Zayn hit a Blue Thunder Bomb. Jey was legal, so hit a superkick on Sami for two. Jey hit a superkick on Sami again. Jey threw his shirt at Sami. Jimmy tagged in, both Usos hit superkicks and then a double superkick got Jimmy a two count because Owens made the save. Jey superkicked Owens out of the ring. Jey tagged back in and The Usos hit a double superkick to Zayn’s head for one…two…no. Zayn got his right shoulder up. Jimmy tagged in as The Usos hit another double superkick, Jimmy covered and Zayn got his right shoulder up at two again. The Usos went for 1D, but Owens tripped up Jimmy and Zayn got a sunset flip on Jey for two. That was close. Owens took Jimmy to the Spanish commentary table. Jey saved his brother, Jimmy with a superkick to Owens and The Usos gave Owens (who was not legal) a double spinebuster through the English commentary table. Ouch. The referee was counting Jey out, but Jey got back in before ten.
Jimmy tagged back in, Zayn was stumbling to his feet and The Usos hit 1D on Zayn for one…two…and no! Zayn got a shoulder up again. Cole was screaming about how nobody has ever kicked out of the One And Done. Jey punched Zayn repeatedly while trash-talking him as well. Jey charged with a running kick to the head like Zayn’s Helluva Kick to the face. Jey trash-talked Zayn saying he never should have left The Bloodline, so Zayn gave Jey an Exploder Suplex into the turnbuckle. Owens was back on his feet with Zayn making the tag. Owens was on fire with a Popup Powerbomb on Jimmy, a Popup Powerbomb on Jey and Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Jimmy. Owens hit a Stunner on Jey for the one…two…and no! Jey kicked out. That was one of the better nearfalls of the show for sure. The fans bought that as the finish and it was not. Owens helped Zayn back to his feet while The Usos slowly got back up as well. The fans were cheering them. They all started brawling. Jimmy knocked Zayn out of the ring, Owens with a superkick on Jimmy, a superkick on Jey and Jimmy made a blind tag. Both Usos hit superkicks and a double superkick on Owens. The Usos hit a double superkick on Zayn to knock him off the apron to the floor. Both Usos were on the top rope with a double Uso Splash! Jey covered Owens for one…two…and no! The crowd was standing. Owens talked to Jey and the cameras picked up on it, but I’m not sure what it was. The Usos hit a double superkick on Owens in the corner. The Usos tried a double team move, but Zayn pulled Jimmy out of the ring. Owens hit a cradle suplex off the turnbuckle on Jey. Zayn was on the apron he wanted the tag, the crowd was going WILD and Zayn got the tag. Zayn hit Jey Uso with a Helluva Kick with Jey crumbling into Sami’s arms. Zayn put Jey back into the turnbuckle and Zayn hit a second Helluva Kick. Jimmy back in, so Owens hit him with a Stunner! Zayn hit Jey with a Helluva Kick for the third time! Zayn covered Jey for the one…two…and three! It’s over! Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens are the new Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions! It went 24:15.
Winners by pinfall AND NEW Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions: Sami Zayn & Kevin Owens
Analysis: ***** It was an excellent tag team match. It really was one of the best tag team matches I’ve ever seen in WWE, at a WrestleMania and anywhere else. These four guys worked so well together. A lot of the match was The Usos in control with Zayn getting his ass kicked and then the comeback was glorious leading to the hot finish. There were so many superkicks in the match. I lost count. I think it worked in the sense that The Usos just kept wearing down Zayn throughout the match, then they put Owens through the table. There were so many moments where it looked like The Usos were going to win, but deep down watching this you knew that Zayn and Owens just had to win. We got the happy ending, but it was done in a way where the story was so important. Zayn had to put Jey away with the Helluva Kick three times because The Usos are so tough to beat, so that puts over The Usos as an incredible team. These four guys put on an outstanding match. Listen to the crowd. They loved it. I did too.
(Here’s what I wrote in my awards column: That Zayn/Owens match with The Usos was the culmination of a very long storyline that took months to develop. We knew months earlier that the match was coming, but we had to wait for the story to develop with Zayn turning face, Owens trusting Zayn again and Jey remaining loyal to his brother Jimmy. They went on to have an emotional battle with so many great moments. When I rewatched it, I paid close attention to the fans reacting to everything. They were so into the story. To see Zayn & Owens come back after getting their asses kicked was tremendous and seeing them win the titles to end the longest Tag Team Title reign ever was an all-time great moment. It was one of the best non-gimmick tag team matches in WWE history.)
Kevin Owens was interviewed by Cathy Kelley backstage. Owens talked about what an incredible moment and he was heartbroken about how it ended. Owens said now he’s focused on next week when he faces Santos Escobar in the US Title Contender’s Tournament Finals. Owens said that Logan Paul as the US Champion is an absolute nightmare. Cathy summed up that his New Year’s Resolution was ready and Owens said that his New Year’s Resolution was ready for New Year’s Revolution. They did a high five, but Owens sold his right hand injury.
Analysis: I think Owens will beat Escobar next week, but I believe Logan Paul will retain the US Title. The guy to beat Logan Paul should be LA Knight at WrestleMania 40. It would be cool to see Knight get a title next year.
There was a graphic noting that CM Punk’s return at Survivor Series got over 105 million views across all social media platforms.
Austin Theory and Grayson Waller appeared to give their New Year’s Resolutions and Waller called for the Grayson Waller Effect intro to play. They spoke about winning the Royal Rumble, winning WrestleMania, winning singles gold, winning tag team gold and winning Money in the Bank. Waller said he wants to headline Elimination Chamber in Perth, Australia. They read some text on the screen from Kevin Owens about how they have punchable faces. They left angrily.
Analysis: I like those two together. Theory needs to bounce back after a slow run on Smackdown and I want to see Waller get some meaningful wins.
They went back to the September 15th edition of Smackdown when Pat McAfee and The Rock showed up unannounced to deal with Austin Theory, who was rude to them. They didn’t show the whole segment. It was just clips of The Rock appearing to a huge ovation and the fans going crazy for him. It got physical with The Rock whooping Theory’s candy ass all over Denver. Rock hit Theory with a spinebuster and People’s Elbow. McAfee did his own People’s Elbow too. The Rock celebrated to end it.
Analysis: Great moment that was unplanned and unadvertised because it literally happened hours before it aired. It didn’t help Theory at all, but it was cool to see Rock back in WWE again, even for one night.
Bianca Belair Interview
Bianca Belair was interviewed by the hosts. Belair talked about winning the Women’s Championship at SummerSlam. Belair said that she also was cashed in on by IYO SKY, who won the title. Belair wants to take the title back from IYO SKY and make 2024 a great year. Belair spoke about how dangerous Damage CTRL is and she always has to keep her eyes on them. Belair spoke about WrestleMania and having a three-peat at WrestleMania with three straight wins at WrestleMania. Belair also spoke about the kids who danced with her on the stage during her entrance. Belair spoke about the reality series with husband Montez Ford coming out on Hulu on February 2nd. Belair said they want to show who they are outside the ring. Belair is excited about it. Belair spoke about how she wants to win the championship again and remain undefeated at WrestleMania. Belair spoke about IYO SKY defending the Women’s Title against Michin on Smackdown next week. Belair said that Michin will bring it to her, but Belair also wanted to be the one to take the title from Sky. Belair said we might see a new champion and then Belair said “Happy New Year” to end it.
Analysis: I don’t think Bianca Belair had as good of a year in 2023 as she did in 2022, but she’s still an awesome performer. I’m not interested in watching “reality TV” shows although I think Belair and her husband Montez Ford are awesome people, so I hope it does well for them.
There were highlights shown of the Women’s WarGames match at Survivor Series. The babyface team of Charlotte Flair, Becky Lynch, Bianca Belair and Shotzi got the win. They only showed a couple of minutes of clips rather than showing most of the match.
A video aired featuring Damage CTRL’s Bayley, WWE Women’s Champion IYO SKY, Dakota Kai, Asuka & Kairi Sane talking about their year. Bayley spoke about Sky winning the title, Sane returning and Asuka joining the group. Sky said she’s going to retain her title next week. Bayley said that 2024 will be Damage CTRL’s greatest year yet.
Analysis: I think it was a good call to add Kairi Sane and Asuka to the group in the last two months of the year. It makes the group stronger to have five talented women in the group. There were teases of Bayley possibly being kicked out of the group, but it appears that has been paused for now and they are a united team. Perhaps the plan is to have Bayley turn face in the build to WrestleMania and then Bayley takes the title from Sky. That would work as a story, but they could also keep the group together for a long time. I’m not sure what the plan is, but I’m interested to see how it develops.
The death of Bray Wyatt was discussed with Corey Graves mentioning Bray’s real name Windham Rotunda. That led to a video about the legacy and life of Bray Wyatt.
They aired the video that aired on the August 25th edition of Smackdown. They went to a commercial after the video aired.
Analysis: The world lost Bray Wyatt far too soon at the age of 36 years old. Every time I see a photo of his smiling face it just saddens to know he’s not with us any more. He is gone, but he will never be forgotten. I hope WWE puts him in the Hall of Fame in 2024 although they should ask the family and see that they want it to happen. It’s important to honor a family’s wishes with something like that.
There were clips shown of the WWE live event tour across the US like New York City. Graves spoke about how they shattered the gate record for Madison Square Garden. They showed clips and photos of CM Punk at MSG as well as some of the other wrestlers on the tour.
SmackDown General Manager Nick Aldis did a promo talking about how he was so proud to be the GM of Smackdown. Aldis mentioned the Smackdown card on New Year’s Revolution on January 5th. Pretty Deady walked in suggesting that they face the Undisputed WWE Tag Team Champions instead of Butch and a partner. Kit and Elton wanted a “yes, boy” so Aldis said no. Aldis said they will face Butch and a partner of his choosing and that is final. They told Nick he made a big mistake. Pretty Deadly closed Nick’s laptop and left.
Analysis: I’m happy to see Nick Aldis in WWE as the GM of Smackdown. With that said, I hope he gets a chance to wrestle in WWE some day soon as well. As for Pretty Deadly, they are entertaining characters that are talented in the ring as well. I can see them becoming Tag Team Champions in 2024, especially if WWE split the titles.
It was back to Crown Jewel for the Logan Paul-Rey Mysterio match.
United States Championship: Rey Mysterio vs. Logan Paul
I missed the introductions and the first few minutes of this. Rey got some offense going with a headscissors that sent Paul across the ring. Paul with a leapfrog while Rey ran the ropes and then Rey stopped himself. Rey sent Paul into the middle ropes, but Paul was back up to send Rey to the apron. Rey with a punch, Rey jumped off the top with a cross body block and Logan drove Rey into the turnbuckle. Logan hit a springboard moonsault for a two count. Logan delivered knees to the body along with a whip into the turnbuckle that led to Rey collapsing to the mat. Paul caught Rey with a waistlock on the mat. Rey stomped on Paul’s foot to break free. Paul hit a backbreaker for a two count. Paul pressed Rey above his head and dropped Rey to the mat like the Ultimate Warrior. Paul ran the ropes leading to a splash like the Ultimate Warrior for a two count. Paul grabbed bearhug, Rey broke free with elbows and Paul hit him with a knee to the ribs. Paul went for a backbreaker on the shoulder, but Rey hit an armdrag to get out of it. Paul went for a running corner attack, Rey moved and Paul hit the ringpost leading to a bump to the floor. Rey hit a suicide dive onto Paul on the floor.
Rey put Paul back in the ring and Paul jumped off the top with a senton followed by a springboard cross body block. Rey got three straight nearfall pin attempts. Paul sent Rey throat first into the top rope. Paul did his own version of a Buckshot Lariat for a two count. Paul’s landing wasn’t perfect, but it was decent. Rey ducked a punch and Rey got a takedown leading to a Crossface submission while trapping the left arm. Paul got his hand on the bottom rope to break free. Rey went for a moonsault, Paul stepped forward and caught Rey leading to a powerslam. They exchanged strikes by the turnbuckle and Paul hit a fallaway slam off the middle turnbuckle for a two count. That was an impressive move as Logan did a moonsault onto Rey to pin him. Barrett credited Paul for being able to pull that move off. Paul went up top, jumped off with nothing because Rey moved and Rey sent Paul into the middle rope. Paul blocked a 619 attempt. Rey was on the apron leading to a jumping kick to the ear. Rey countered a Paul move into a Sunset Bomb. Rey hit a Code Red for the two count. A friend of Logan Paul handed Paul brass knuckles at ringside while the referee looked at Rey. Rey shoved Paul into the ring post and the brass knuckles went to the floor. Santos Escobar was there to stop the brass knuckle usage. Escobar left the brass knuckles on the apron while Escobar chased Paul’s friend away. Rey hit a dropkick leading to the 619 kick. Rey went for a leaping attack, but Paul was back up and Paul punched Rey with the brass knuckles on Paul’s hand. Paul covered for the pinfall win at 17:50.
Winner by pinfall AND NEW United States Champion: Logan Paul
Analysis: ***1/2 It was a very good match, but not at the same level as Paul’s greatest matches. The interesting thing about the brass knuckles usage is that Santos Escobar did stop it momentarily, but then Santos left the knuckles on the apron as he chased Paul’s friend. I don’t know if WWE is going to follow up on that or if it’s going to be forgotten, but you could certainly say that Escobar may have left it there on purpose if there’s going to be a heel turn. Anyway, they had chemistry in the ring while Paul showed off some more creativity in the ring compared to some of his earlier matches. Rey is always great. The crowd was into some of it, but not that loud for all of it. I think this was a predictable match and title change. I wonder how often Paul will appear as champion.
(That finish did lead to WWE following up and having Santos Escobar turn heel. I’m not sure how many times Paul will defend the US Title or how long he’ll keep it, but like I said earlier I would love to see LA Knight beat Paul for the US Title at WrestleMania.)
A video package aired about Santos Escobar’s heel turn against the LWO.
Rey Mysterio Interview
Rey Mysterio was interviewed by the hosts. Rey said his knee surgery recovery was going great. Rey said he’s looking forward to coming back and taking care of business. Rey spoke about how for some reason, he keeps on picking the wrong partners, but things will be told when the time is right. Rey was asked about Santos being with Angel Garza & Humberto Carrillo, so Rey said he had people he trusts and it will be handled. They talked about Rey being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. Rey said that it was hard for him saying that out of the corner of his eye, he saw his son Dominik get up and walk away. Rey said that his heart is already set in stone for situations like these, but he has to keep moving forward. Rey was asked if Dominik would find his way and Rey said he hoped so. Rey said he gives Dominik credit for what he’s accomplished and he said overall his growth in that ring has been tremendous. Rey said that Dominik has been doing a great job as the man he wants to be. Rey called Dragon Lee a superstar who is the future of Lucha Libre. Rey spoke about Dragon being willing to give it all, he’s very unique, he’s creative and Rey really enjoys watching Dragon Lee. They asked Rey about Logan Paul and Rey said that Logan did what need to do for himself to become the superstar that he is now. Rey said there was unfinished business with Logan Paul too. Rey had his 2024 list with Santos and Dominik on it, so whoever wants to get on the list can jump onboard. Rey wished us Happy Holidays to end it.
Analysis: I laughed when he talked about needing to pick better partners because he has been turned on many times in his career whether it was Eddie Guerrero, Batista or more recently Santos Escobar. That’s because Rey is the ultimate babyface, so it’s easy to get heat if you turn on him. It wasn’t mentioned here, but Rey recently signed a three-year contract extension with WWE. Rey is 49, so he’s going to keep wrestling until he’s around 52 years old. That’s an incredible career since he started as a mid-teen and was amazing on WCW TV in his early 20s. What an incredible career. I’m a huge Rey Mysterio fan and always will be.
It was mentioned that Roman Reigns has held the Undisputed WWE Universal Championship for 1216 days.
That led to the video about Randy Orton, AJ Styles and LA Knight competing to be the next challenger for Reigns. They aired videos from the last two weeks of Smackdown to set up the Orton/Styles/Knight triple threat match next week.
Paul Heyman Interview
The “Wise Man” Paul Heyman appeared in studio with Jackie and Corey. Heyman admitted that Reigns was feeling the heat. Heyman was asked about the three men coming after Reigns and Heyman admitted he was concerned about it. Heyman was asked about Solo Sikoa being deemed the Tribal Heir and how Jimmy Uso feels about it. Heyman called Jimmy Uso on his phone. Jimmy appeared on Facetime at home. Heyman left.
Jimmy Uso said that he hears everybody wondering if Jimmy is hitting on the Tribal Chief. Jimmy said that we have been nice over here. Jimmy said that Reigns isn’t afraid of Knight, Orton or Styles. Jimmy said that The Tribal Chief is not worried about them. Jimmy said he was about to ask The Tribal Chief how he was enjoying his eggnog. Jimmy got another message from Solo, so Jimmy ended it.
Analysis: It was typical Jimmy being confident as usual even though he is usually the guy that is fed to the people that Roman Reigns beats. Jimmy really didn’t win much in singles in 2023, so maybe that will change next year. I am looking forward to Jimmy Uso against Jey Uso at WrestleMania 40 and I assume that’s the plan.
A clip was shown of Cody Rhodes winning the Royal Rumble in January.
That led to the final match on this show. It’s WrestleMania 39 Sunday and it was the main event.
Undisputed WWE Universal Championship: Roman Reigns (w/Solo Sikoa & Paul Heyman) vs. Cody Rhodes
There was a staredown as the match began. The referee for the match is Dan Engler. Cody with a hammerlock leading to Reigns getting to the ropes to break the hold. Cody with a side headlock, then he was sent into the ropes, Cody dropped down and Cody punched Reigns in the jaw. Heyman reminded Reigns that all of the people are here to see Reigns and told Reigns to smash him. When Reigns got back into the ring, he managed to get some offense going including clotheslines against the turnbuckle. Cody fought back, sent Reigns into the ropes and hit a dropkick. Cody with punches, Cody went for a Disaster Kick off the ropes, but Reigns caught him and Reigns hit a Powerbomb for a two count. Reigns with punches along with choking across the middle rope. Reigns hit a suplex for just a one count leading to some laughing by the champion. Reigns suplexed Cody followed by some waving towards Cody’s family at ringside. Reigns sent Cody to the apron, Cody got back in the ring and sent Reigns out of the ring. Cody went for an attack on the apron, but Reigns grabbed the foot and Cody landed on the apron. Reigns tossed Cody on to the bottom of the ramp. Reigns gave Cody a body slam on the bottom of the ramp. When Reigns tried another body slam, Cody got out of it and Cody gave Reigns a body slam on the ramp. They were fighting around the ring. Both guys broke the referee’s count at different points when they were fighting on the floor. Cody sent Reigns into the ring, the referee was looking at Reigns and Solo hit Cody in the ribs with the steel chair. You could see Cody had to wait for it, so Solo was a bit slow with it. Reigns hit a Drive By kick on the floor and back in the ring for a two count. Cody fought back with punches. Cody bounced off the ropes, Solo grabbed his foot (the referee never saw it) and Reigns hit Cody with a clothesline leading to a flip bump by Cody. Reigns got a two count out of that.
Reigns whipped Cody hard into the turnbuckle leading to Cody selling the rib injury. Reigns tossed Cody out of the ring again. Reigns cleared off the English announce table. Reigns cleared off the Spanish announce table as well. Reigns broke the referee’s count, then back out again and Reigns wanted a Powerbomb. Cody blocked that and Cody gave Roman a back body drop from the Spanish table while sending Reigns through the English table. That was a big spot. Cody back in to stop the count. I guess we can say they don’t do DQ’s for breaking those tables since it’s part of the ringside area. They were back in the ring with Cody getting an uppercut punch followed by a powerslam. Cody jumped off the ropes with a springboard Cody Cutter for one…two…and no! Reigns kicked. Cole was shocked as he shouted “Oh my God, he kicked out at two.” That is not Cody’s finisher, but it’s a big move that is great for a nearfall. Cody stomped on Reigns, so Reigns left the ring. Reigns hit a suicide dive sending Reigns hard into the barricade. Cody sent Reigns into the ring, Solo got the weight belt and he hit Cody in the back with it. The referee didn’t see it, but he heard it enough. Referee Dan Engler ejected Solo from ringside leading to a huge pop from the crowd. The replay showed that Engler didn’t see it, but he reacted to the sound. Good spot to pop the crowd. Reigns wanted to use the weight belt as a weapon, the referee tried to stop it and Cody hit a superkick. Cody hit the Cross Rhodes for one…two…and no! Roman kicked out. Amazing nearfall there.
Reigns hit a jawbreaker, a headbutt and a forearm to the back. Reigns sent Cody over the top, Cody was selling his left injury, Cody tried to skin the cat back in and Reigns caught him. Reigns hit a uranage with Cole saying that and then calling it a Rock Bottom for a two count. It’s more of a uranage because a Rock Bottom is when you go down to the mat with your opponent. Reigns set up in the corner, he charged for a Superman Punch, Cody avoided it and Cody hit a Pedigree for one…two…and no! Just a two count. The majority of the crowd was standing and cheering for Cody. They both ran the ropes, Cody jumped off the ropes going for a Disaster Kick, but Roman got him with a Superman Punch. That got a two count. Reigns went for a Spear, Cody over a top and he hit a sunset flip for two. Cody applied the Figure Four Leglock with the announcers mentioned Dusty Rhodes looking down at his son Cody using a move that Dusty used a lot in his career. Reigns turned it over to put the pressure on Cody, who crawled to the bottom rope to break the hold. They both paused a bit for a breather with Cody on the apron while Reigns was in the ring. They exchanged punches, Cody with a necksnap across the top rope and Cody went up top. Cody jumped off the top, Reigns avoided it and Reigns charged with a Spear for one…two…no! Cody got his right shoulder up! Reigns was shocked by it as he complained to the referee about it.
Reigns mounted Cody and worked over him with punches. Reigns signaled as if to say “that’s it” as Reigns applied a Guillotine Choke hold. Cody was selling it like he was fading, Cody was down to a knee, but Cody kept his arm up because had some fight left in him. Reigns wrapped the legs around Cody’s waist, but Cody used his right arm to push Roman’s arm out and Cody broke the hold. Cody mounted Reigns leading to punches to the head. Cody went for a kick, Reigns moved and Cody kicked the referee Dan Engler to knock him out of the ring by accident. Reigns punched Cody, who bounced off the ropes and Cody hit a clothesline to knock Reigns down. They were both down selling again. The Usos went into the ring with a double superkick on Cody. The fans were booing loudly while Cole was complaining about it. The Usos hit 1D on Cody. Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens showed up to fight off the Usos. Owens and Zayn sent The Usos out of the ring. Owens hit a Stunner on Reigns. Zayn hit a Helluva Kick on Reigns. The Usos and Zayn/Owens went fighting out of the ring and into the crowd. Cody crawled over to Reigns, put one arm on the chest, the referee Dan Engler did the slow count one…two….and no! It’s just a two count. The match continues. Wow. What drama there.
Analysis: Reigns won by cheating so many times without anybody else around to try to stop the cheating, but this time Zayn and Owens were there to nullify The Usos at least. It was a good way to pop the crowd and keep the match going.
Cody and Reigns were on their knees exchanging punches. They got back up to their feet. They threw some more punches, Reigns wanted a Superman Punch, but Cody hit some lefty jabs like Dusty along with a Dusty Bionic Elbow! Cody with the uppercut punch. Cody hit the Cross Rhodes. Cody hit Cross Rhodes again. Cody wanted to hit Cross Rhodes again, Heyman distracted the referee and Solo Sikoa hit Cody with the Samoan Spike. Reigns bounced off the ropes and hit the Spear on Cody for the one…two…and three! It went 34:35.
Winner: Roman Reigns
Analysis: ****1/2 It was an epic, outstanding main event level match. I don’t want to go five stars because of all the cheating and referee-bumping spots that they did, but it was an emotional match full of drama with both guys working really hard. There were so many spots in the match where Cody looked like he was going to get the win, but then Roman kept getting help as usual. Cody hitting the multiple Cross Rhodes and then just stopping against the turnbuckle made it clear that somebody was coming there and that was Solo making his presence felt yet again. I thought Cody was going to win the titles. I wrote it many times in the last two months and I thought this was the right time for Roman’s title reign to end, but I guess not.
(I picked Cody Rhodes to win this match. I was wrong obviously and so were a lot of people who thought that Cody was going to be “the guy” to beat Reigns for his titles. I still remember watching this match and thinking that Cody was going to kick out of that Spear from Reigns, but it didn’t. No kickout. Reigns won again. They had an outstanding match with a finish that is all too familiar for Reigns’ matches since he got an assist to beat Rhodes just like how Reigns beat so many other opponents. Do I think Cody will beat Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Title at WrestleMania? Yes. I do. It would be an incredible moment.)
Next Friday on SmackDown New Year’s Revolution:
* AJ Styles vs. Randy Orton vs. LA Knight – The winner will challenge Roman Reigns for the Undisputed WWE Universal Title at Royal Rumble.
* WWE Women’s Championship: IYO SKY vs. Michin
* United States Championship Contender’s Tournament Finals: Santos Escobar vs. Kevin Owens – The winner gets a US Title match.
* Pretty Deadly vs. Butch and a partner
The hosts Jackie Redmond and Corey Graves signed off to end the show.
Analysis: I’ll pick Randy Orton, IYO SKY, Kevin Owens and Butch with partner (Sheamus perhaps or maybe Tyler Bate) in those matches next week.
Final Thoughts on WWE SmackDown
It was a good summary of the year that was on the Smackdown brand. I thought their match selections were logical for the most part with some of the biggest names being featured. The interviews on the show were solid too.
Bring on 2024.
Thanks for reading. Please check out my reviews of every WWE PPV ever listed in order. Go Los Angeles Rams, Toronto Raptors and Toronto Maple Leafs. My contact info is below.